Ruston and Ouachita square off again with quarterfinals trip at stake

Photo Credit: Reggie McLeroy

By Kyle Roberts

It’s a familiar foe for the Ruston Bearcats in the second round of the 2022 LHSAA Non-Select Division I playoff bracket as the Ouachita Lions come to James Field at “Hoss” Garrett Stadium with a trip to the quarterfinals on the line in a win-or-go-home scenario for both teams.

Ruston, the overall No. 1 seed in the postseason and District 2-5A champions, earned a first round bye last week under the new rules for postseason seeding. Ouachita (No. 17) traveled to Hahnville, La., in South Louisiana for a first round matchup with the Tigers. Ouachita trailed at halftime 21-13, but the Lions rallied in the second half to score 22 unanswered points for the 35-21 win.

“We expect to see mostly the same things we before,” Ruston head coach Jerrod Baugh said. “There may be some adjustments on some things that did not go so well for them before; one thing that we saw on video from the Hahnville game, is that they’re using (Chaunkavion) Lewis more at running back along with (Carldell) Sirmons at the same time. They have threats in the skill positions on offense. (Head coach Todd) Garvin is trying to find ways to get all those guys who can make plays out there at the same time. Our kids are really familiar with the things that they do.”

That familiarity stems in large part from the two junior varsity teams playing each other multiple times this year.

“Our junior varsity guys played in a jamboree with their JV team, and the JV teams have played a couple more times, and then a varsity game,” Baugh said. “For some of our guys and some of their guys, it will be the fifth time they’ve seen each other just this season. You throw that into account along with the fact that a lot of their coaches have been on our staff before, so we all do a lot of similar things. We’re as familiar with each other as you can be with a team this late in the year.”

Ruston spent the bye week with full practices, game simulations for conditioning, and heavy lifting in the weight room. Now, the ‘Cats have the chance to advance to the quarterfinals for the fifth season in a row, but first, they have to beat a Lion team that is healthier tonight than in the Week 9 contest, where Ruston dominated Ouachita in the Lions’ Den by a final score of 47-13.

“This was an opportunity to get our legs back under us,” Baugh said. “We spent a lot of time in the weight room and got heavier on the weights. We did some running; some planned and some unplanned. It was a really good opportunity for the situation we were in, where we won the district championship and beat West Monroe, to let the air out and not carry over into the next week. I thought that the kids, even with the bye week and us not having an opponent, did a good job getting focused on our team goals for the postseason. I think it was very productive (having the bye week), but we won’t know for sure until we kick the ball off. I think we’ve had a good week of preparation.”

Ruston finished the season 9-1 overall, while Ouachita comes in 6-5 on the year. In the previous matchup, senior running back Dyson Fields returned after injury to rush for 105 yards on 23 carries with two touchdowns. Junior linebacker/fullback Jadon Mayfield scored a pair of touchdowns, as well, while sophomore running back Jordan Hayes rushed for 126 yards on just 11 carries with a touchdown. 

Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. and can be heard on Z107.5 FM or streamed live at The Jerrod Baugh Show will begin at 6:30 p.m. on the radio.

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